OTHER POETRY TRANSLATIONS

A DEDICATION TO MY OWN BELOVED SELF (1916)

By Vladimir Mayakovsky

 

Three words
Heavy as a blow:
“Render unto Caesar.”
That’s fair.
But what about me?
Where should I go?
Where should I make my lair?

 

I wish I were small
Like an ocean!
I’d reach for the moon on the tiptoes of tides.
Where can I find a lover
To match my emotion?
She wouldn’t fit in the tiny skies!

 

I wish I were poor
Like a billionaire!
The thief inside can’t be bought with gold.
The horde of my desires would strip bare
All the goldmines of the world!

 

I wish I were incoherent
Like Dante’s rhyme of
Beauty.
Scorching my soul in her face!
My words and my love
are the Arch of Triumph:
The girlfriends of all eras march through it
With splendor but without trace.

 

I wish I were quiet
Like a thunderbolt!
I’d shiver and shake the Earth’s ancient mound.
My roaring voice would make comets fall
They’d raise their burning hands,
And in anguish dive down!

 

I wish I were dim
Like the sun!
My eyes chew up the night with their rays.
Would I care to bestow upon everyone
In this barren land my shining blaze?

 

I drag this loveload, without reprieve…
By what night of fever dreams and delusions,
By what Goliaths was I conceived,
A man so big and so useless?

 

THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE (1925)

By Vladimir Mayakovsky

 

Hey, Coolidge!  Give out
A joyful shout!
I spare no compliments!
Blush from my praise
Like the Soviet flag’s fabric, ha!
Enough for all of your United States
Of America!

 

Like a fanatic
to church
stumbles,
Becomes a hermit
without a flinch;
That’s how
in a grayish twilight, humble
I step onto
the Brooklyn Bridge!

 

Like a conqueror
into a fallen town
Rides a cannon,
victory clinched;
That’s how,
in glory and lust unbound,
I step onto
the Brooklyn Bridge!

 

Like a mad artist
in a museum
Devours a Madonna,
his loving eyes twitch;
That’s how,
studded with stars,
I see it:
New York City –
through the Brooklyn Bridge!

 

Till nightfall New York is humid and feeling
Stifled,
as it heavily sighs.
Only the transparent souls of buildings
In the glow
of windows rise.

 

Here the subway buzzes along,
And from this buzzing sound you know:
The train keeps slowly rattling on,
As if somewhere
cutlery
is being stowed.

 

A ship that carries sugar to shops
From the mouth and up the river;
Its masts below
seem from the top
Like little dress pins,
no bigger!

 

I am full of pride in this steel mile!
My vision’s living realization:
The triumph of Structure over Style,
The steel and bolts’ stern calculation.

 

So if there’s ever the End of Days,
Chaos
on the planet will reign,
And over the dust and the decay
Only this rampant
bridge
will remain,

 

Like dinosaurs,
extrapolated
From tiny bones,
in museums
amaze
From this bridge
a geologist
later
Will recreate our present days.

 

He will say:
“This steel claw fastened
The seas and prairies
together!
From here Europe
charged
westward
And blew away
Indian feathers.

 

“Then came the machines.
Now imagine
This machine with a metal rib
Setting its iron foot on Manhattan
And pulling Brooklyn
by the lip!

 

“From this braided
cable
hair
I recognize the Post-Steam Era
Men shouted
on the radio here.
Men soared
on the aero there.

 

“Here life
to some
was endless joy
To others –
a hungry howl of woe.
Here the unemployed
Jumped
into the river below.

 

“And then my picture gets perfectly clear:
Up strings and cables,
a star-bound course,
I see
Mayakovsky
standing here
And crafting his poem,
verse by verse.”

 

I stare at it, like a man bewitched.
I suck it in, like a parasite…
The Brooklyn
Bridge:
That’s something,
alright!

 

THE NOBEL PRIZE (1959)

By Boris Pasternak

 

I’m a beast corralled for slaughter
Freedom shines so far away…
Here the hounds are getting closer,
As the hunt is underway.

 

A lake’s edge, a somber forest,
An old tree log lying there…
No way out. I am cornered.
Come what may. I do not care.

 

What’s my crime, now? Tell me bluntly!
Murder? Treason? Something worse?
At the beauty of my country
The world was weeping – from my words!

 

Even in my dying hour
I believe it stronger still:
Malice will be overpowered
By the spirit of Good Will!